Northern Ireland faces a ‘deep and prolonged economic downturn’

Northern Ireland will inevitably face a “deep and prolonged economic downturn”, a report has found.

Ellvena Graham and Diane Dodds
Ellvena Graham and Diane Dodds

While the region’s department for the economy report concluded the full impact of the Covid-19 economic crisis has yet to be seen, it warned early indications are “stark”.

The Rebuilding A Stronger Economy report, published on Wednesday, says a “significant contraction” is expected in the Northern Ireland economy, pointing to downturn estimates of 7.5% and 12.7% by Danske Bank and the Ulster University’s Economic Policy Centre respectively.

It also warns of a decline in output in Northern Ireland that is more severe in the rest of the UK and foreign direct investment (FDI) “likely to be greatly reduced”.

These challenges, along with an expected increase in unemployment and a drop in consumer spending, are likely to be “further compounded” by the lack of clarity around Brexit, the report added.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds described economies across the world as being in a “difficult space”, and cautioned that Northern Ireland is “not immune”.

In response, the minister has announced a 12-18 month recovery plan which focuses on delivering higher paying jobs, a highly-skilled workforce and a more regionally balanced economy.

“The future economic strategy needs to be around sustaining, helping, supporting those core industries we have, but also in developing those industries where we are already world class, cyber security, Big Data and reinventing ourselves, re imagining the Northern Ireland economy tapping into global opportunities of the future,” she said.

The minister announced the membership of the Economic Advisory Group which is set to be chaired by Ellvena Graham, former head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland to assist her department’s work.

“There has been significant financial support from the Executive to date to help businesses survive the immediate impact of Covid-19,” Mrs Dodds said.

“We must now look to the medium term and work to build a more competitive, inclusive and greener economy.

“Our people are our key asset so developing the skills base of our young people and workforce will remain central to our economic success going forward.